Most conversations about birth control methods in the past few weeks have centered around disputes on who should pay for birth control or whether or not it is even an economic issue. Those advocating for birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act point out that contraception is not actually free under the ruling, often also presenting data which shows that birth control coverage is ultimately more cost-effective for taxpayers.
Female condoms, also known as internal condoms, are the only woman-directed (or receptive-partner directed) form of contraception which prevent both pregnancy and the transmission of STIs like HIV. An internal condom is a long sheath with two rings, one internal and one external, which is inserted into the vagina or anus. They are also latex-free. The first female condom (FC1), invented in 1980, was made of polyurethane; the female condom currently on the market (FC2) is made of nitrile. Because they provide dual protection, and may even be better at preventing skin-to-skin STI transmission, female condoms are the darling of the global health world.
While not everyone is a fan of the method (common complaints include that the female condom is messy, sticky, uncomfortable, or squeaky), female condom use may be on the rise in the U.S. In 2010, Washington D.C. became the first American city to distribute female condoms for free in an effort to combat HIV.
Certainly advocates are doing their best to promote the method. Bedsider, a web initiative on the part of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, notes that "some even say the female condom feels better than the male condom." The National Female Condom Coalition has also turned to Facebook in order to promote the method.
Whether or not their PR campaign will pay off is unclear — but I hope it will, if for no other reason than I think it would be hilarious to hear politicians explain how they thinks an internal condom works. (Oh, and the prevention of unplanned pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs would be good, too.)